I talked to my car today – and tomorrow, it will talk WITH me
Really? Am I completely off my rocker?
How many people go out and talk to their car? If people don’t talk to them, then many others do give them names. If not that, at least out in the open, cars often are personified as “she” or “he”. Now, what if you came out into the garage or carport and talked to your car and it answered back, but, even more, asked if you wanted a ride or where you wanted to go? You say “sure”, get in, and ultimately arrive at your destination. Along the way, you strike up a conversation with the vehicle and get everything from the news to advice, just like talking with a cab driver. Is this so far-fetched? We read of robots being developed with humanoid qualities, and there is nothing to say that cars can’t be in the same category. Before we contemplate the reality of this and other discussions that might wander into topics of animistic philosophies, we need to backtrack a bit and look at how we may be getting there. It all starts with the human-machine interface, or HMI.
Some basics of HMI
Simply put, there is a way for a human to interact with a machine, and the interface is the device by which to do this. To be extremely basic, we talk of the several simple machines – “mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force .“ Most people commonly refer to the six simple machines as being the wheel and axle, inclined plane, lever, wedge, pulley, and screw. There is debate about some of these being offshoots of others, such as the wedge being two inclined planes placed back-to-back and the pulley as a variant of the wheel. Nevertheless people need to use these, and an example of an interface for wedge used as a wood splitter, for example might be a big “X” and instructions to strike with a hammer printed on the back face, or side.
In the 1950s, when computers started coming out, people began writing about how humans were to interact, or interface with them. The term “man-machine” interface (MMI), in those times less enlightened about 51% of the worlds’ population being women, referred to a physical device that allowed humans to make the computer work. We sometime hear of a “human–computer interface” (HCI), but the letter “C” restricts usage more to actual computers than allowing us to use it generally to all machines.
The key to designing an interface is to present the user with an obvious way to interact with the machine. In an automobile, we can regard the steering wheel, gauges pedals, and ignition key as interfaces that allow us to drive. With the computers of the 1950s, all the user had as an interface often was a set of levers or switches, such as with the Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP 8. Today, the environment is a windows-based graphical user interface that enables us to use the operating system to run the computer. Now, we are combining the two types in a digital form to drive a vehicle – computers and gauges. In addition to actually driving it, there are auxiliary activities, such as getting information – news, directions, weather, etc., as well as outright entertainment. Enhanced functions come with a higher priced car, where a driver can navigate by the global positioning system (GPS), find a desired restaurant, or be warned of heavy traffic ahead and routed through less crowded conditions. Fancier cars have fancier systems, as in intelligent tires (tire condition warning and maintenance), automatic steering, and brake management. Vehicles can be equipped such that a driver can use mobile devices, such as an iPad or Blackberry to interact with the vehicle’s central control system to navigate or monitor various mechanical or environmental conditions.
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2nd International Conference Automotive Cockpit HMI